The decommissioned aircraft carrier Vikrant, known for its major role in the 1971 India-Pakistan war, may find itself headed for the scrapyard. The state government’s proposal to convert it into a national maritime museum has reached a dead end.
After two unsuccessful bids, in 2010 and 2009, the state government now believes the public-private-partnership (PPP) model for the project is unviable.
Museum plans will not take off unless the state coughs up Rs400 crore for the project. The state scrapped the bid for the project by Ackruti City in February this year after Aamby Valley of Sahara Group (which had made a more viable bid) backed out. Aamby Valley backed out as the plan to have helicopter rides off Vikrant’s flight deck was dropped following Navy’s objection. Chief secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad has referred the proposal to chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. “After this last round of bidding and the Navy objecting to having helicopter rides off the flight deck at the last minute, we now feel that a PPP model is no longer viable. It has to be decided whether the state can fund the project on its own. The grouting of the ship, and building a jetty will cost around Rs 400 crore,” said a senior government official.
He added, “We don’t have the requisite expertise for the grouting work and may have to take help of Mumbai Port Trust.”
The 2009 bid ended when all five interested parties shortlisted for the project backed out, but the project got two bidders in 2010: Aamby Valley and Ackruti City.
While Aamby Valley’s bid was most competitive with zero viability gap fund, Ackruti City’s bid was rejected by the state later as it asked for a steep VGF to the tune of Rs500 crore.
VGF refers to the grant offered by the government to a private partner to make a project commercially viable.
Helicopter rides were a key revenue stream for the project and could have made it commercially viable. The Navy, however ruled it out saying operations on Vikrant could clash with operations from INS Shikra, the Navy’s nearby helicopter base. Its objection came late after technical bids were in.
The proposal to convert the ship into a maritime museum has been pending since 1997.